MP-1978.107.47 | Monks giving shoes and clothes to elderly men, Montreal, QC, about 1930

Monks giving shoes and clothes to elderly men, Montreal, QC, about 1930
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1930, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
12 x 17 cm
Purchase from Napoleon Antiques
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Occupation (1110) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

Care for the elderly was haphazard. Farm families might look after their own; in urban areas this was often difficult. Many seniors lived in dire poverty, dependent on charity or municipal relief.

Private pensions were available only to a minority of Canadians. Public old-age pensions were in their infancy. In winter, homeless seniors sometimes found refuge in jail. Others were cared for by charitable institutions. In Quebec, religious orders played a key role.

In 1927, the federal government undertook to pay half the costs incurred by provincial governments that paid non-contributory pensions of $20 monthly to British subjects at age 70, provided they had resided in Canada for 20 years and had an income of less than $365 annually. This was the maximum income allowed to someone applying for the pension. By 1930, only the four western provinces and Ontario had passed the necessary legislation.

  • What

    In theory, people were supposed to save for their old age. In practice, the low wages paid in many industries made saving impossible.

  • Where

    Prince Edward Island introduced old-age pensions in 1933, Nova Scotia in 1934, and New Brunswick and Quebec in 1936.

  • When

    In 1951, a constitutional amendment turned non-contributory old-age pensions into a federal responsibility. The Canada and Quebec Pensions Plans date from 1966.

  • Who

    The politicians who in 1925 initiated federal involvement in old-age pensions were the Labour Members of Parliament James S. Woodsworth (1874-1942) and Abraham A. Heaps (1885-1954).